Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Thanks for Leaving it all on the Floor!

The article below was taken from the most recent SI.
On the afternoon before his final home game, Ryan Gomes is lounging in a swivel chair in an athletic department office in Alumni Hall. Clad in an all-black Providence jumpsuit, he looks a bit like 50 Cent and shares the rapper's cool demeanor, always on the cusp of a wink and a smile.
"Yo, Kev," Gomes calls out to graduate assistant coach Kevin Kurbec. "Why'd they schedule Senior Night during spring break?" Kurbec launches into an explanation about Easter coming early this year, creating a scheduling conflict for the small Catholic school (enrollment: 3,700), but Gomes has already moved on. "The students have been great," he tells an interviewer. "A lot of them came up to me to say that they were glad I came back. I just wish they could be here for my last game." So while some of his peers roast like hens in tropical locales, at night grinding in clubs filled with foam, Gomes is tethered to a blizzard-coated campus, fulfilling his obligation as the biggest name in the littlest state.
"Ryan, can you fill out this Big East questionnaire for a West Virginia newspaper?" asks sports-information director Arthur Parks. Gomes makes his picks for the league's best freshman (Rudy Gay), best dunker (Hakim Warrick), best talker (Carl Krauser) and best player ("Gotta be Ryan Gomes"). He puts his pen down. Parks's voice rings out again: "Ryan, can you do an interview for Channel 12's 10 o'clock news?" In the glow of the camera lights Gomes answers the same questions he's been answering all year. Yes, he's disappointed that the team hasn't fared as well as last season. No, he doesn't think about whether his NBA stock was affected by his returning for his senior year. But when the interviewer asks his thoughts regarding Senior Night, Gomes snaps out of his stock-answer mode, pausing to let the question sink in. "It is strange to think that three years ago I was a freshman watching the seniors graduate. I remember Senior Night in high school was pretty big, and in college it's much bigger. There's no Senior Night in the NBA, so this is it. I'm going to have to try to not get too emotional."
After his stellar junior season, when he was a consensus first-team All-America, Gomes declared himself ready for the NBA, only to discover that he'd been given a label more damaging than malcontent or soft. Scouts dubbed the 6'7" forward a tweener, questioning his ability to either bang with NBA heavies or hang with Road Runner swingmen. After failing to receive a guarantee that a team would select him in the first round, Gomes returned to Providence. Though he again is waging an all-star campaign (averaging 21.7 points and 8.2 rebounds), the Friars are a woeful 14-16 (4-12 in the Big East) and will not play beyond the Big East tournament barring a miracle. "It was a young team, so I knew what I was getting myself into," Gomes says. "Then our second-leading scorer went down. We've been fighting, but the outcome hasn't been good." In addition, his campus routine has become monotonous at times. "I know what to expect every day: class, then practice. It's the same old same old," he says. "Some days I wake up and have to go to class and think, If I had left, I wouldn't have to worry about this stuff."
There are two seniors on this year's squad, Gomes and fellow starting forward Tuukka Kotti, but Senior Night is a Ryan Gomes lovefest. During warmups fans target Gomes in the crosshairs of their cameras. In every shot they will find him smiling. An elderly woman pulls him from the layup line and gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I just wanted to thank you. I mean it," she says. "And good luck with everything in the future."
"Can you believe it's over?" asks Claire Pollard, an usher at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. "He's such a good leader, and I'm going to miss him."
After a brief introduction for Kotti, there is a shift in the arena's mood, a stirring that augurs a big moment. Gomes calmly chats with his family as the P.A. announcer reads off his accolades, including his place atop Providence's alltime scoring list. He is also one of only six Big East players to score 2,000 points and haul in 1,000 rebounds, joining Patrick Ewing, Derrick Coleman, Alonzo Mourning, John Wallace and Danya Abrams. After his name is announced, Gomes walks the gantlet of his teammates, sporting an ear-to-ear grin, as he escorts his family to center court. Fans wave the "3" cards placed on every seat in the arena. His mother, Teresa, clutching a bouquet, looks on with pride as her son, poised to become the first Gomes to earn a college degree, in social science, holds high a framed jersey. The crowd roars. Aside from the silent and lifeless student section, it is a fitting tribute, a chance for fans to say goodbye and thank you.
Gomes is as solid as ever (23 points, six rebounds) in leading the Friars to an 86-75 victory over St. John's. With 20 seconds remaining, the win secure and a Red Storm player on the line, Gomes, stationed at half-court, begins to fumble with his laces. The horn sounds, and coach Tim Welsh sends in a sub so Gomes can exit to one last standing ovation. Gomes steps out of his black Air Jordans, leaves them on the court and glides over to his laughing teammates. The inspiration for his final act at the Dunkin' Donuts Center? Before the game, assistant Bob Walsh had told Gomes, "Go out like an Olympic wrestler and leave your shoes on the court."
When the game clock hits 0:00, all the players except Gomes and Kotti head for the showers. Gomes remains courtside and begins to sign autographs for a throng of fans. "One per person," a security guard announces. A fellow student greets Gomes with a three-part handshake. "Bro," he says, "awesome four years." Though his senior season wasn't everything he'd hoped, tonight, cheered by his home fans for the last time, Ryan Gomes understands why he came back.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Friars End the Disappointment

The Friars put an end to their 04-05 season with a lame showing in the first round of The Big East Tournament. Ryan Gomes, playing in his last college game, was unable to carry the team to another postseason game. The writers of "Let's Go Friars!" would like to thank Ryan for a wonderful career and wish him luck in the upcoming NBA Draft. Friar fans, keep your heads up! Next season will begin a new era for The Big East and the Friars incoming recruits and transfers will be ready to fight. Until then...GO SOX!!!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Friars End Home Slate with W

The 2004-2005 Friars completed their Home schedule with a victory over St. John's on Tuesday of this week. This game started with the traditional honoring of the Senior class. This year's graduating class will rank as one of the best. The Friars said goodbye to Kotti and Gomes. Gomes ended his career with over 2000 points and 1000 rebounds and cemented his place among PC's All-Time Greats. Kotti will have a fine future in a pro-league in Europe somewhere. Now the Friars are left with the daunting task of winning 4 games in a row in the Big East Tournament to prolong Ryan's career.